TAMPA, Fla. – Vincent Lecavalier was paid the US$500,000 bonus he was due from the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday and the NHL club insisted it remains on solid financial ground.
General manager Brian Lawton told reporters in Tampa that a report from Montreal this week was off the mark when it quoted sources close to the team as saying there was doubt that the Lightning would be able to pay the bonus.
The newspaper later reported that Lecavalier would receive his bonus, but said the team was still looking at trading its star centre, and that his hometown of Montreal is a possible destination.
“Vinny was paid his bonus today (Thursday), just as all our other players were paid according to their contracts and the provisions of the CBA,” said Lawton “It’s time to stop this foolishness.
“The team is on solid financial ground and it will continue to operate that way. Nobody needs to worry about whether our players are going to get paid or not. It’s foolish and it’s irresponsible to report anything different.”
Reports surfaced last week that Lecavalier may be traded because the team’s owners Len Barrie and Oren Koules were in difficulty due to the worldwide financial crisis.
Lecavalier has an 11-year US$85-million contract that kicks in next season and speculation is rising that the club will trade him to ease its financial burden.
“I think that’s a fair comment for people to say, but it’s not true,” said Lawton. “We signed (Lecavalier) with the intent of keeping him here.
“We’d like to see the economy pick up. We’d like to see our team do better. As far as where we are today, we signed him with the intent to keep him here.”
Lawton has said the club is not shopping Lecavalier, but reports say other teams, including Montreal, have contacted the Lightning.
Lecavalier’s new contract will have a no-trade clause, but they are free to trade him before it takes effect on July 1. The team has told Lecavalier he will be consulted if they decide to move him.
The prospect of the six-foot-four centre landing in Montreal has created a buzz in the city, which has not had a French-Canadian scoring star of his stature since Guy Lafleur in the 1970s and early 1980s.
The 28-year-old Lecavalier told a newspaper this week that if he is traded, he is no longer averse to playing for the Canadiens, even if the pressure would surely be enormous.